Although he would not say a word about Iran’s human rights violations after Mahmoud Ahmadinejiad tortured protesters of the stolen presidential election last summer, Barack Obama brought the full weight of the presidential bully pulpit down against 50 people planning to burn the Koran this Saturday. Obama told George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America this morning the would-be Koran-burners’ “stunt” is “completely contrary to our values as Americans…this country has been built on the notions of religious freedom and religious tolerance.”
That is an interesting about-face on the right of religious people to exercise the First Amendment. Less than a month ago, he declared his support for the Ground Zero Mosque, telling Muslims at an Iftar dinner:
Let me be clear: As a citizen and as president I believe that Muslims have the right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.
He later said he was only reiterating their constitutional rights and “will not comment on the wisdom” of planting a victory mosque atop the graves of 3,000 jihad victims. But he felt no constraint commenting on the “wisdom” of a tiny Christian church burning the Muslims’ “holy” book. Although he showed enthusiasm for the First Amendment rights of Muslims, he tried to sic the local police on Pastor Jones, stating that he found the Dove World Outreach Center’s rights “frustrating”:
Now, on the other hand, we are a government of laws. And so, we have to abide by those laws. And my understanding is that he can be cited for public burning. But that’s the extent of the laws that we have available to us.
Obama then returned to his familiar refrain that “part of this country’s history is people doing destructive or offensive or harmful things.” He made no call for state or local authorities to enforce all appropriate ordinances blocking a religious extremist from building the Ground Zero Mosque, as many assumed a patriotic president would have.
Had he reacted the same way, he may have told Stephanopoulos this morning that Pastor Jones and his flock have the constitutional right to burn whatever they like and left the matter at that, refusing to comment on its “wisdom.”
One could have expected a different response than the one he gave this morning if Obama believed the First Amendment did not apply to actions, but he believes flag desecration is a constitutionally protected right and voted against overturning that interpretation.
At a minimum, the president might have added a rebuke for the New Black Panther Party, which has issued threats against the church. A spokesman (of sorts) wanted “to warn Pastor Terry Jones that if he attempt [sic.] to burn this Koran, he’s going to incite a wrath and chastisement on himself that he will not be able to bear.” He continued in something approaching English, “I believe in peace, but if you aggress [sic.] me, I’m going to fight back.” Black Panthers promised to turn out “in numbers” Saturday. Perhaps Obama could have insisted that the imperiled Christians had the right to burn the Koran, however distasteful the action may be, and instruct the Panthers to show restraint. They know his Department of Justice will not prosecute them.
Obama’s defenders will say he is looking out for the well-being of American troops — and possibly American citizens at home. He said today the action could result in “serious violence in places like Pakistan or Afghanistan.” He is right to be concerned. Sixteen Muslims were killed and more than 100 injured after Newsweek published an erroneous story of Koran desecration by Michael Isikoff and John Barry in 2005. (Isikoff essentially defended the story in an exchange with this author less than two years ago.) Gen. David Petraeus has stated the weekend burning could “endanger” his men.
Obama saw worse consequences than that. “This is a recruitment bonanza for al-Qaeda,” he said. “This could increase the recruitment of individuals who’d be willing to blow themselves up in American cities, or European cities.”
Muslims have killed or threatened to kill people for filming documentaries critical of Islam or depicting Mohammed in a cartoon. Publicly igniting a stack of Korans will likely trigger a deadly response. However, creating Muslim violence did not stop Barack Obama from vowing to release up to 2,000 of photos of Americans abusing Muslim detainees last year. The massive and unnecessary disclosure was opposed by virtually every official in the military or the Defense Department, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Gen. Ray Odierno, Gen. Richard B. Myers, Gen. John Abizaid, and Gen. George W. Casey Jr. Even John Kerry admitted, “I do think it will be used as a propaganda tool and have some damaging impact.” As I wrote at the time, releasing images of Muslims suffering at American hands would be like distributing “thousands of al-Qaeda recruitment posters.” After Gates and Gen. Odierno protested in private, Obama eventually, abruptly, and erratically changed his mind.
In fact, al-Qaeda recruitment could certainly experience a boost if the world’s Muslims see a mosque erected on the grounds of a building damaged during the greatest act of jihad ever perpetrated on American soil. Clearly, the well-being of American soldiers is not Barack Obama’s first consideration.
These and many other differences in approach and tone indicate that President Obama has a profound problem with ordinary Americans, especially Christians. His Department of Homeland Security ranks pro-life, pro-family activists as a greater threat than Muslim terrorists. The collective weight of his aversion to Middle American values and his avid defense of Islamic interests has caused many Americans to believe he is a Muslim himself.
His record should convince no one he is a patriot.